Spanish Nobility Records in Hispanic Research
Spanish nobles were divided into two major categories: titled and untitled. The status of untitled nobility was called hidalguía. Hidalgo, or hijodalgo (which, literally translated, means “son of something”), is defined in the fundamental thirteenth-century legislation Siete Partidas (Partida Segunda, Título XXI) as the nobility that comes to men by lineage. To have the full rights and privileges of an hidalgo from that time forward, it was necessary to prove hidalguía in a person’s lineage running back to at least his or her bisabuelos (great-grandparents). Nearly every national archive in Spain has at least one or two sections relating to hidalgos. These archives were usually a depository for records that originated from those proving hidalguía status as a means of entering a particular institution. The discovery that an ancestor was involved with a particular institution generating nobility records should trigger a search of such records.
Hidalguía records found in local Spanish and some Latin American national archives generally constitute two types: (1) censuses of the nobility and (2) prepared genealogies, known as informaciones genealógicas (genealogical investigation reports) or limpiezas de sangre (purity-of-blood records). These types of records are commonly found in the ayuntamiento (city hall). The censuses of the nobility were used extensively as a means of proving the nobility of one’s ancestors, and many proofs of hidalguía contain citations from them. These census documents can be found under several different names, including padrón de hijosdalgo (census of hidalgos) and lista del estado de los vecinos (list of the status of the heads of families). In many cases, these lists were compiled as the exceptions to the impuesto de pechos (commoner’s tax) and to the quintas (military conscriptions), as those who had hidalgo status were exempted from both of them. Informaciones genealógicas were presented also to join a military or civil order and to marry after having joined the order, wherein the hidalguía of the bride was proved. Many of these records are found in the two archives of the Reales Chancillerias in Valladalid and Granada. Both collections are indexed in published form and that of Valladalid online and that of Granada on a CD-ROM.